Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nice Hung Parliament

It appears to me that rather than the country independents having the balance of power and being the most important block of votes, it seems that every single person in parliament has been elevated in importance to the point of being almost as important as the Prime Minister or Opposition leader. One strand of evidence is that no matter how egregious Wassisname's usage of a Union credit card was, he has been afforded a sort of cabinet protection from dismissal as strong as it would be for the PM.

Something similar is happening to the Liberals in that every sitting member has been more obliged than ever to take a disciplined part in the voting process to take advantage of any slip-ups by the government to try to force an early election or embarassing backflip on policy.

With the Boat people issue, I feel that the populist "tough" approach has shown itself to be completely dependent on context. When boat-people are imagined as a *group* the populist notion is that they are undeserving and cheating the system. As soon as they are individualised and humanised (for instance, unaccompanied children), the populist notion flips to an assumption of innocence ie. that they should be processed *TO* decide whether they are deserving of refugee status. These are contradicting views, and a large section of the population holds them simultaneously. No law can preemptively and correctly act under these expectations. Constantly changing the laws, or even talking seriously about changing the laws keeps people smugglers on their toes without necessarily prejudicing the individual cases - Therefore a series of backflips on policy is the perfect policy in itself - especially if the overall refugee intake is allowed to increase from our dismally low quotas.

As far as the Carbon Tax is concerned, I am glad it is going through in spite it being one of the least popular policies I could ever imagine making it through *ANY* parliament. I think once it is in there it will be shown to be no more distorting or painful than the GST, with a lot less red tape for the average individual or business.

I do think it unfortunate that the Carbon Tax will get the blame for electricity price increases, when the reality is that it is the fault of exorbitant feed-in tariffs combined with the uncertainty of infrastructure expenditure that will be incurred due to the revised architecture of energy transfers required.

9 comments:

Dr Clam said...

Therefore a series of backflips on policy is the perfect policy in itself...

I think this is an excellent observation. It is an extreme case of the unpredictability of democracies which makes them so irritating to game-theory minded strategists. (I just made that up, but I know they would irritate me if I was the Foreign Minister of the Caliphate of Greater Sydney).

the reality is that it is the fault of exorbitant feed-in tariffs combined with the uncertainty of infrastructure expenditure that will be incurred due to the revised architecture of energy transfers required.

*coughsplutter*

2/3 infrastructure spend due to decades of neglect;

1/3 renewable energy mandates, of which half, tops, is feed-in tarrifs.

Sheesh...

Marco said...

extreme case of the unpredictability of democracies which makes them so irritating to game-theory minded strategists

I think this is probably a fair call. Game theory, however, is like that. It doesnt guarantee correct answers but the more you know what the game is, the more you can play it better.

2/3 infrastructure spend due to decades of neglect;

1/3 renewable energy mandates, of which half, tops, is feed-in tarrifs.


I would like to investigate further into specifics of the data you source, but what you are saying is, in my mind completely unrealistic and simplistic.

I do not trust most of the analysis that I have seen, because it is essentially formulated by PV enthusiasts who don't really understand why the utilities are up in arms.

As you said, a large proportion of the installations are in country areas. These are also the areas that in the future are likely to have a net surplus of power. These areas are already marginal for the grid (ie. the city grid users are subsidising the country areas' electricity infrastructure). If the utilities were allowed to, they would refuse to supply infrastructure to these areas, and therefore refuse feed-ins at even the wholesale rate.

You can't just average the cost across the whole grid to understand that *this* really is the thin end of the wedge. It is not stimulus, it is more similar to country(etc.) welfare scheme forced onto the utilities. It cannot be allowed to continue in the fashion of Germany. We must concentrate our efforts and investments where utilities would actually invest - ie. in power systems including solar for areas that are already off grid to keep them off grid and to save the infrastructure expense.

Marco said...

This link may interest you in regards to what may be done in the middle east with the current arab spring.

Chris Fellows said...

What is this *this* that is the thin end of the wedge?

The problems are: (1), that governments washed their hands of infrastructure they oughtn't to have sold, for short term gain; and (2), that ridiculous over-the-top insert-hyperbolic-adjectival-phrase-here concern about 'climate change' has encouraged governments to do "something, anything!" without thinking.

There is no "wedge" opening up more of these impractical schemes if the social energy driving (2) evaporates, which it's doing. And anything that messes with energy retailers bottom lines paves the way for a nationalisation rolling back (1).

So relax. Remember we have the world's best treasurer so nothing can go wrong.

No PV's mentioned at all in <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-electricity-bills-to-soar-20100318-qgjw.html>this article</a>.

Jenny said...

where did you get your refugee figures? I did a quick search looking for a list of (likely not to be faked or missing factors to prove a bias) actual accepted refugees/year/capita of population and I haven't found one yet
I did find something in a pdf from 1999 which gave quotas and then another column with the extras that were accepted on top of quota, but its so out of date now its not relevant.
I also found the UNHCR statistics front page but there's no obvious link to a world wide summary.

Marco said...

I don't think there are specific Global stats that demonstrate my assertion of "dismally low quotas". Our quota was around 12000 per year that I think increased to 14000 per year at some point since 1999. There was talk of increasing it to around 20000 but this has not happened as far as I know. Australia does not generally get close to breaching the quota and in most years since 2000, actual numbers have averaged about half the max quota.

My "dismally low" assertion is based on comparing it to both total Aus net immigration (250000) or comparing it to the sort of refugee intake required when a neighbouring country suffers a severe blow or act of warfare (at times hundreds of thousands cross borders within weeks to escape from a dire situation) Compared to our capacity to accomodate them, our intake is dismally low.

Marco said...

Also compared to the "demand" and their willingness to pay huge sums of money to get into Australia.

Marco said...

So relax. Remember we have the world's best treasurer so nothing can go wrong.

Interestingly, it is (Labor) state governments that have been the most enthusiastic with feed-in tariffs, while the Federal government seems to be fairly neutral on them.

Plenty can go wrong, and I don't see how renationalisation can happen, nor how the social energy in favour of feed-in can evaporate any time soon.

I can live in hope however, that you are right on both counts.

I expect that utilities that are exposed to country infrastructure and lack of income will be the ones first nationalised, leaving the others drinking from the honeypot of city-dwellers and fighting any nationalisation attempts tooth and nail.

The only political solution to this impasse would be a National Electricity Infrastructure Upgrade - NBN style, reseparating infrastructure and power markets.

Dr Clam said...

I can live in hope however, that you are right on both counts.

Contemplating the trends in public opinion over the past four years should be cheering! Economically, we just can't afford this sort of malarky anymore, and demographically, with the retiring of the Boomers, the overwhelming cultural need to identify a looming Apocalypse will vanish.